Hiccuping Through The Phone Book

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Trying to stream the Senate Commerce Committee hearing over the Internet Tuesday, a hearing dealing with, in part, streaming over the Internet, was like listening to someone with hiccups recite the telephone book.

By which I mean it was–still is, for that matter–extremely hard to follow. It required constant reloading and so much re-buffering that I needed a Bufferin to try to get through it. I'm still not sure what happened to the amendment on narrowing the exemption of satellite services from state regulation, which turned into a digital hiccup as it rebuffered to 99%, gave me a fraction of a syllable from the proceedings, then started buffering (I wrote "buggering," in a Freudian slip, then corrected it) all over again.

I am told by some that the issue of network neutrality comes down to whether or not I want a totally free and incredibly slow Internet, or a slightly tiered but less tear-inducing experience. I'm sure that the issue is actually many shades of grey that have been portrayed as either bad black or pure white by the lobbies for both sides, each of which paints the other in the opposite color from the one in which they cloak themselves.

I am all for a neutral network, but if it means the freedom to sit in Internet traffic jams, maybe I do want an express lane that I can pay extra for.

I am told the reason for the on-again, off-again nature of streaming is that the information is delivered in packets and that, if traffic is heavy, sometimes the truck carrying packet 16 arrives before packet 12, and has to wait for the slowpoke to catch up so the information can be assembled in the right order for me, or something like that.

I want whatever gets all my little digital Fed Ex drivers lined up in the right order. Who out there with a pocket protector and no dog in this fight can fill be in on just what network neutrality, or the lack of it, means to the streaming that's got me steaming?

By John Eggerton

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